The Roanoke Times is reporting that Virginia Tech is one of seven institutions of higher learning to be awarded an $800,000 grant from The Environmental Protection Agency. The schools are to work collaboratively on a project initiated by the federal government to develop a low-cost technique to measure hazardous air pollutants by the end of 2025.
The Environmental Protection Agency has concluded that there are about 10,000 toxic chemicals in the air at any given time in very low concentrations and evidence from research indicates that communities of color and low-income are "disproportionately exposed" to toxic air. The EPA currently depends on large, expensive tools so the challenge set before the schools is to develop a device that is smaller, less expensive, and more accessible to citizen scientists, researchers, and other organizations interested in monitoring the quality of local air.
Isaacman-VanWertz from Virginia Tech’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering researches atmospheric chemistry. He says it is a difficult task attempting to develop an air quality detector, that will be cheaper, smaller, and able to "target individual chemicals within that mixture of thousands of different airborne compounds."
He also pointed out that there are known chemicals that are hazardous to human health like lead, chloroform, benzene, and mercury. These he said could be toxic to breathe immediately, may cause cancer, or may have effects that build up over a lifetime. VanWertz says the device should be small, portable, and able to be utilized worldwide. He added that you should be able to drive around a neighborhood, or the city while attempting to "map out and understand the ebb and flow of these pollutants.”